U-M Health System Tests Ways to Reduce Noise in Hospitals


The University of Michigan Health System is testing methods to make hospitals quieter by placing acoustic panels in hallways to help diffuse sound. New research says a noisy hospital environment can prompt spikes in blood pressure and interfere with healing and pain management. 

“In hospital environments where noise levels are often double what they should be according to the World Health Organization’s standard decibel guidelines for patient rooms, the difference is significant,” says Majtaba Navvab, associate professor of architecture and design at U-M’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

The researchers, including Dr. Peter Farrehi, an assistant professor of internal medicine at U-M, and Dr. Brahmajee Nallamothu, an associate professor of internal medicine at U-M, installed four custom panels made with sound-absorbing materials in the walls and ceilings of a cardiovascular care unit for three days.

Sounds levels were 60 decibels during the daytime, but on hallways with sound panels, sound levels were lower at 57 decibels. The drop in noise is the equivalent of the noise generated by a car slowing down from 80 miles per hour to 60 miles per hour.

“This architectural design could complement on-going strategies for addressing noise,” Dr. Farrehi says. “The panels help diffuse sound, rather than attempt to eliminate the sounds generated in a modern hospital environment.”